Role Of Religion In A Changing Society

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A religion is a belief of a higher being (a God) that people are passionate about. Religions exist worldwide, one of the most popular and oldest to date is the Roman Catholic religion. Religions this big have a huge impact on social norms and what is considered right or wrong, especially with the youth.

In big religions like this there are churches where adults take their families to worship and to learn what would be considered their social norm that would help them be a good member of society, something that Emile Durkheim believed through his theory of structural functionalism would help keep balance at a macro level. So, is today’s youth still being influenced by the elders in church to follow religious norms that they will more than likely take in to the world as they grow older?

Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist in the 1850’s. His work on structural functionalism is known by sociologists world-wide as a classical perspective because it is so old. Structural functionalism theory that sees a society as a system made of parts that work together to create harmony. When one part in that system is broken or no longer serves the same purpose the harmony is gone, and the stability is no more.

This theory is viewed at a macro level because it views society as a whole. A broad example for structural functionalism is a computer. As a whole, a computer works well when they keys, speakers, screen, mouse pad etc. are serving their purpose, they work in harmony to provide quality typing and access to the computer. Well in structural functionalism when the mouse pad stops working it ruins the harmony of the whole computer thus disrupting the balance and going against the norm.

In real life one of the “parts” that are needed to keep harmony within societies are institutions. These institutions each serve a purpose for the society as a whole. For example a school serves the purpose of educating children so they can grow up and know how to read and write. When students learn how to read and write they can find jobs and contribute to society. Durkheim believed that religion enforced unity and stability. “First, it gives people a common set of beliefs and thus is an important agent of socialization (see Chapter 4 'Socialization'). Second, the communal practice of religion, as in houses of worship, brings people together physically, facilitates their communication and other social interaction, and thus strengthens their social bonds.” (Sociological Perspectives on Religion, n.d)

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Religion is world wide, it has the power to bring people together. People who believe in the same things tend to have the same idea on what a society should look like. Looking at the field notes when a mother was so appalled by what another person was wearing and said something she was criticizing for going against the norm. The norm for a religious setting is usually modest and showing too much skin can be seen as a bad thing. So by this one person wearing a tank top it may not have any effect on the society as a whole but it was definitely looked down upon. Another thing is others might think its okay to start wearing such things and so then that would create a problem in the church. Its true that things are always changing in society but in a religious setting it is so much harder for things to change because the institution is so old.

Social bonds were definitely shown in the church the field study was at. As soon as a person walks in there’s the immediate greeting of the usher. Although the person may be unknown it creates a welcoming feeling. The fact that people are all there for the same purpose also creates a feeling of comfort.

With structural functionalism it is important to understand that it is an old concept so new things like phones and media and such did not exist back then but now it does. Children under eighteen are being more and more influenced by these things which makes it harder for to concentrate in a church setting where its all from a scripture. Rules have to be enforced to get these children to understand it is not appropriate in the house of worship. This was clear in the first mass with the small child that demanded the mothers phone and started crying when it wasn’t given.

At that point the mother desperate to get the child to calm down gave in and the phone was given to the child. The usher saw and they were told it was inappropriate, so the father took the child outside. Here the rules of the church were imposed by the usher and although the mom tried to stick to the rules she was more concerned with her child not making a disruption.

When the adults were using the phones in the church at the beginning before church started it prompted the usher to say something publicly reminding them that it was a place of worship. That was interesting because these were grown people still getting called out. This meant that there’s a hagiarchy imposing order within the church. That was important because while calling out the parents they made an unspoken statement to do better and to teach the kids that it is not seen as okay to have cell phone use in the church.

During mass it was also observed that parents were more involved when it came to younger children. In the first mass it was observed that the parents were encouraging their children to participate and clap along to the music as well as helping them to cross themselves. This was showing kids the norm for the church, something that when older they’d have to know to be members of the society that the parents wanted them to be in. when observing the second mass where it was older children it was evident that they knew how to go through the motions of the mass, but the parents were less involved in having them participate.

When the music would play they would normally just stand and not clap or sing but it wasn’t enforced by the parents or even the ushers as much as it was with the first mass and the smaller children. There was one instance where a child didn’t want to participate and stand when it was time and the mother forced the child to do so. That was the mother insisting on instilling the norms of the church and to follow rules.

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